By Jim Cavan
May 21, 2013 2:00 AM
EXETER — The growing appeal of electric bicycles isn't difficult to grasp: As many Americans continue to feel the effects of unstable gas prices, having a more efficient secondary or tertiary transportation alternative can go a long way in easing pocketbook strain.
But for as effective and efficient as many electric bikes are, they continue to harbor — fair or not — something of an aesthetic stigma.
"The way a lot of models are built, you can kind of tell they're electric," said Teresa Hemenway, co-owner of the Exeter-based EZ Bikes and Scooters. "Now, for some people, the functionality is all that matters. But younger people are always looking for something with style."
Just last week, EZ introduced two new lines of electric bikes — The Neo Race, manufactured by E Motion; and the Outlaw SS — made to be as eye-poppingly hip as they are fuel-efficient.
Hemenway said that the Bikes — one of which, the Outlaw SS, is made in the United States — are more reasonably priced than many of their competitors.
Designed to compliment traditional road racing bikes, the Neo Race offers what Hemenway calls a "purist appeal."
"It's a great way for traditional riders who want to cover the same distance in a shorter period, or for people who want to better keep up with a partner who is used to covering longer distances," she said. "So you have the look and feel of a road bike, but with that extra boost when you need it."
Contrastingly, the Outlaw SS is designed to embody the look and feel of a rugged off-road bike, with a sturdy frame and knobby tires to help ease the impact of tough trails.
Oh yeah, and they top out at 28 miles an hour, too.
"It's a screamer!" jokes Hemenway. "Most bikes don't go much over 20, so this one has quite a bit of boost to it."
Launched in 2009 by Tom and Teresa Hemenway, EZ Bikes offers models from manufacturers including EZ Peddler, Hebb, Prodeco, and E Motion, as well as a number of standard bikes, three-wheelers, beachcombers, and gas-powered scooters.
With its small electric motor attached on the front wheel, EZ Bikes give riders the option of pedal power, while offering an easily activated electric throttle for steep inclines or unruly terrain.
In terms of function, they're not unlike the moving walkways found in just about every major airport; some simply let the walkway carry them from point terminal to terminal, while others choose to walk along with it, thereby allowing them to move faster. Or, they can hop off the walkway altogether and pedal their way from point A to point B.
What's more, a typical lithium ion battery only takes four hours to fully charge, meaning you don't have to worry about running up your electric bill ahead of your ride.
Hemenway said she's excited by the prospects of using her shop's latest attractions to draw in a broader clientele. But while a sleeker style might be making its way through EZ Bikes doors, the store refuses to lose sight of why it got into the business in the first place: Giving Seacoast riders a genuinely green alternative.
"The bikes are looking better all the time, but the technology is getting better, too," Hemenway said. "We can't wait for people to try them out — to see how far the whole industry has come in just a few short years."
Learn more about EZ Bikes & Scooters at www.ezbikesandscooters.com
Jim Cavan is a writer with the Green Alliance. To learn more about the Green Alliance visit www.greenalliance.biz.